Tyler Ennis, the Underappreciated Phenom

Posted by Chris Kehoe on January 2nd, 2014

What’s that, you say — a heady, patient, point guard on an undefeated team, sporting a 4.67:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, isn’t getting enough attention? Someone who happens to be a freshman valiantly filling the shoes of a lottery pick who has already notched an NBA triple-double? By now, you have probably figured out that we’re referring to none other than Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis, an extremely talented and poised freshman playing arguably the most demanding position in all of basketball. The precocious rookie is averaging 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game for a second-ranked Orange team that looks as dangerous as ever and ready for another deep run in March. He contributes 32 minutes per game on a team that lacks any real alternative at the position, but as Ennis has shown thus far, Jim Boeheim doesn’t need much of a substitute as the Canadian rarely gets in foul trouble or gets fatigued playing at the top of the vaunted 2-3 zone.

Ennis splits an Indiana double team (Rich Barnes/Getty)

Ennis splits an Indiana double team. (Rich Barnes/Getty)

Ennis has proved himself a potent long-range shooter, launching three-pointers at a 40 percent clip, and is no slouch defensively either, averaging 2.7 steals per contest  (10th in the nation). Speaking of national statistical rankings, Ennis also comes in second nationally behind ACC counterpart and Pittsburgh point guard James Robinson in assist-to-turnover ratio, a strong indicator of how effectively he runs the team. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Eisenberg said it best: “He’s just a savvy point guard who changes pace masterfully, uses ball screens to his advantage, and has a knack for knowing when the Orange need a bucket.” Read the rest of this entry »

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A Popular Preseason Dark Horse Pick, Boston College Has Failed to Live Up to Expectations

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 31st, 2013

Boston College has had a resoundingly disappointing season, to say the least. Coming into the year with elevated expectations based on their youth and potent inside-out combination of Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson, the Eagles have not even held a .500 record yet. Their defense is porous, ranking an astonishingly bad 298th in the nation out of 351 Division I basketball teams. They also haven’t shot the ball well from deep, yet have persisted in making it a staple of their offense. A top-40 schedule with games against UConn, Providence, UMass, USC, Maryland, Toledo and VCU have all resulted in losses. At some point this team needs to win a few marquee games in order to thrive in a top-heavy ACC, and although they won’t lack for those opportunities, it seems like the rest of the season will be spent in hopes of securing a non-NCAA postseason bid and building for the future.

Olivier Hanlan, Boston College

Olivier Hanlan is shouldering a large burden this season. (Boston Globe)

Boston College fans had good reason to believe in this squad coming into this season, as the Eagles returned all of their major players including the ACC ROY Hanlan, versatile big man Anderson, and guard Joe Rahon. The team finished the 2012-13 season relatively strong, winning four out of its last five games with an extremely young team that lacked depth and ACC experience. Much was made out of the momentous leap expected from Hanlan, the seemingly unstoppable Canadian guard who dropped an ACC freshman record 41 points in the first round of last year’s ACC Tournament.

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Assessing the Impact of Jerian Grant’s Dismissal From Notre Dame

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on December 23rd, 2013

Notre Dame’s already diminishing ACC chances took an even greater hit over the weekend when star guard Jerian Grant was dismissed for the remainder of the season for academic reasons. Grant was averaging 19.0 PPG and 6.2 APG for the 8-4 Fighting Irish and was largely considered one of the best guards in the ACC and the country. The 6’5″ senior was shooting 51.8 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from three, and was clearly a major cog in coach Mike Brey’s attack. Grant, in conjunction with Notre Dame, put out a brief news release Sunday regarding his dismissal. He was apologetic and mature in addressing the public, taking full responsibility for his actions and saying he hopes to be back in an Irish uniform next season. In the release he said, “I take full responsibility for my lack of good judgment and the poor decision that I made. I have no one to blame but myself for the situation.”

ND's Jerian Grant (Photo: US Presswire / Richard Mackson)

Jerian Grant Is Done For the Season (Richard Mackson/ US Presswire)

Notre Dame has had some struggles out of the gate, losing an uncharacteristic November game for the first time in Brey’s tenure and most recently blowing an eight-point lead with less than a minute to play versus Ohio State on Saturday. The loss of a team leader in Grant will set the Irish back even further with ACC play rapidly approaching. Look for McDonald’s All-American and freshman combo guard Demetrius Jackson to start playing heavier minutes and establishing himself more often on the offensive end. Senior guard Eric Atkins will likewise need to be more aggressive in looking for his shot and take on more responsibility in Grant’s absence. Don’t be surprised to also see the continued ascent of fan favorite Garrick Sherman shouldering a more extensive burden of the offense.

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The Emergence of NC State’s T.J. Warren

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 20th, 2013

N.C. State sophomore forward T.J. Warren had an extremely successful freshman season on a Wolfpack squad that failed to live up to outsized expectations last year. After the departure of stars C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown, the reins were handed to Mr. Warren. Surrounded by a supporting cast of talented freshmen and an undersized yet feisty former Oak Hill point guard (Tyler Lewis), N.C. State was largely expected to coast to a lower/middle-of-the-pack finish in the ACC. However, behind freshman guard Anthony ‘Cat’ Barber’s unexpected scoring output, the emergences of forward/center Jordan Vandenberg and freshman big man Lennard Freeman, and Warren’s ascendence, the outlook is bright for this Wolfpack team.

T.J. Warren skies for an emphatic two points (photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

T.J. Warren skies for an emphatic two points
(photo: Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Last season Warren was known for his other-worldly efficiency, pouring in 12.1 PPG on a remarkable 62.2% shooting and cementing his status as a player to keep an eye on. A popular misconception after the departures of the talented triumvirate was that N.C. State and Warren would struggle because of a lack of offensive options and overall experience and cohesion. That has not been the case, as N.C. State has cruised to a 8-2 record, beating Florida Gulf Coast, Northwestern, and most recently, Tennessee in solid wins. While their schedule has not been particularly strong, they look to be a force to be reckoned with in a weaker-than-expected ACC. They are now circled on teams’ calendars as a dangerous foe in ACC play, because when you have an elite scorer such as Warren to defend, there is no telling what kind of damage he can do.

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Boeheim, K, Pitino & Roy: Considering Their Careers and Replacements

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on December 19th, 2013

Often when you think about a team like Duke or Syracuse, what comes to mind tends to be certain trademark characteristics that those schools exhibit and in turn becomes associated with them. For Syracuse, it’s the orange jerseys, the 2-3 zone, and head coach Jim Boeheim. For Duke, people envision Cameron Indoor Stadium with the Cameron Crazies, floor-slapping for a defensive stop, and head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The fact that these two coaches immediately come to mind is a testament to their staying power and the impact they’ve had on their respective universities and college basketball as a whole. Neither Krzyzewski (66) nor Boeheim (69) is a spring chicken, however, and that poses a serious dilemma for their schools as both are nearing retirement age.

Boeheim and Pitino confer in a meeting of Hall of Famers

Boeheim and Pitino confer in a meeting of Hall of Famers

Perhaps not in the exact same boat but not too far behind are Louisville’s Rick Pitino (61) and North Carolina’s Roy Williams (63). Neither head coach has been a ‘lifer’ at one program like Boeheim and Krzyzewski, but they remain living legends in their own right. While Syracuse and Duke owe a resounding amount of their present success to their two current coaches, Pitino and Williams have added substantially to illustrious program legacies with Final Fours and championships. Regardless, all four coaches are bona fide Hall of Famers with 100s of wins and at least one national title each. More specifically, the four coaches are responsible for 29 Final Fours, nine national championships, and an unfathomable .760% winning percentage over more than 3,700 college basketball games. If it’s even possible, these staggering numbers do not even do justice on their impact on the sport of college basketball.

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A Closer Look at the ACC’s Early Impact Freshmen

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 11th, 2013

The ACC has struggled as a whole to live up to its self-proclaimed billing as the best basketball conference of all-time. It can’t even lay a claim to the best conference currently, as it came out with a tie in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, an event in which three of the ACC’s worst teams weren’t invited. However, the talent in the ACC is deep and it remains an exciting conference from top to bottom. Part of the reason for that is the emergence of new and exciting young players across the league, tantalizing casual fans with skills usually reserved for seasoned veterans. These ACC newcomers play various roles on their teams, some shouldering a large offensive burden while others bring a spark off the bench. Whether these players are one-and-done or around for the long haul, they represent the future of the ACC and have fan bases optimistically looking toward future conference championships and Final Four runs. While some relatively high-profile freshmen have struggled to adapt to the college game — UNC’s Isaiah Hicks and N.C. State’s Beejay Anya come to mind there are plenty of freshmen to note who are already producing. Broken down into a tiered system based on efficacy and impact, the following 13 freshmen represent the best of the ACC so far this season.

Tyler Ennis is a major reason for Syracuse's success

Tyler Ennis is a major reason for Syracuse’s success this season.

The Elite ACC ROY Candidates

1). Jabari Parker, F, Duke: Parker is not only an ACC ROY front-runner but an ACC Player of the Year favorite as well. His offensive game has been compared to Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony and he possesses an abundance of elite moves in isolation, ranging from the perimeter to the post. Parker carries a large burden of Duke’s offense this season and his ultimate performance will be judged largely on the Blue Devils’ success. If he can lead his team to an ACC title, he’ll probably win both awards.

2). Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse: Ennis is a calming and consistent offensive presence for Syracuse. He rarely gets flustered and is a key member at the top of the Orange’s 2-3 zone. He has started since day one for Jim Boeheim and is a large reason why Syracuse remains undefeated and an ACC title favorite. On ESPN‘s college basketball podcast, ESPN commentator and former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said Syracuse would be a “borderline NCAA Tournament team without Ennis.” This shows how much of an impact the youngster has had.

On the Cusp

3). Anthony Barber, G, N.C. State: Barber is playing nearly 30 minutes and averaging 13 points per game for the Wolfpack. A lightning-quick, reed-thin guard, Barber shares the floor with diminutive point guard Tyler Lewis and has been relied on thus far for his scoring more than his distributing abilities.

4). Kennedy Meeks, F/C, UNC: Kennedy Meeks recently took home the ACC Rookie of the Week award after a pair of convincing performances versus UNC-Greensboro and a statement win at Michigan State. The big-bodied, 290-pound frontcourt player is known for his Kevin Love-like outlet passes and is an efficient interior scorer and big-time rebounder for this Tar Heels’ team.

Kennedy Meeks took home ACC Rookie of the Week honors (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennedy Meeks took home ACC Rookie of the Week honors (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

5). Demetrius Jackson, G, Notre Dame: Jackson has to back up one of the best backcourt tandems in the country in Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, but it is a testament to his abilities that Mike Brey finds 24 minutes per game for him. Jackson is the future of the Notre Dame backcourt and is having a very successful, if not understated, freshman campaign, averaging almost eight points per game with very good shooting numbers — 50 percent from three and 53.7 percent from the floor.

6). Ben Emelogu, G, Virginia Tech: Much was made of Emelogu getting named a freshman captain for the Hokies, but he has validated James Johnson’s decision to the tune of 14.0 PPG for the 7-3 squad.

Productive and Will Continue to Improve

7). Davon Reed, G, Miami (FL): Reed averages 9.0 PPG in almost 29 minutes per game for a rebuilding Miami program, and he will be a key cog for the Hurricanes’ future.

8). Roddy Peters, G, Maryland: Peters has taken over some point guard duties (along with Dez Wells) since Seth Allen’s early injury, and he has risen to the occasion.

Roddy Peters has been a bright spot for a disappointing Maryland team.

Roddy Peters has been a bright spot for a disappointing Maryland team.

9). Michael Young, F, Pittsburgh: A highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school, Young has complemented the experience and maturity of Pitt’s seniors well.

10). Devin Wilson, G, Virginia Tech: This rookie guard is handling 32 minutes per game well for the inexperienced Hokies, whose true talent will be tested come conference play.

11). Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson: Blossomgame has shown himself to be a versatile interior force, averaging close to 5.0 RPG and PPG while blocking over a shot per contest as well.

12). Nate Britt, G, North Carolina: Britt plays 25 minutes per game and has taken on the point guard duties as Marcus Paige has become the Tar Heels’ primary perimeter scoring option with P.J. Hairston still sidelined.

13). Lennard Freeman, F, N.C. State: Freeman plays 26 minutes per game for Mark Gottfried, and the Washington, D.C., native is a huge help on the boards, averaging almost seven rebounds per contest.

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Old Big East Programs Make Presences Felt Early in ACC

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on December 2nd, 2013

Both Pittsburgh and Syracuse have began the 2013-14 season red-hot, with neither a loss between the two of them. Syracuse’s frontcourt depth and one-two punch of freshman point guard Tyler Ennis and forward C.J. Fair gifted the Orange a Maui Invitational title this week as Jim Boeheim’s team find itself ranked seventh in the national polls. With solid wins over Minnesota, Cal, and Baylor, Syracuse is heading into its first ACC/Big Ten Challenge (versus Indiana) with a heightened sense of confidence. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, hasn’t faced as many quality opponents as Syracuse, but has a decisive and resounding victory over Stanford on its resumé. The Panthers have also won over the advanced analytics crowd, coming in at #3 on KenPom’s early rankings. Pittsburgh lucks out with a cellar-dwelling in-state rival in Penn State in the Challenge, and only has to worry about its match-up versus old Big East foe Cincinnati for the remainder of the December schedule.

Pitt and Syracuse lead the way early on for the ACC

Pitt and Syracuse lead the early returns for the ACC this season

Credit Pittsburgh’s vaunted defensive prowess for its hot start. The Panthers have not missed a beat with the new defensive rules like many teams have to this date. While much of their success likely comes from an incredibly weak scheduling job by Jamie Dixon (currently 307th, according to KenPom), their undefeated record cannot be discredited on that basis alone. Pittsburgh has put together a roster built on experience and upperclassman leadership and is led by one of the more reliable point guards in all of the nation, James Robinson. While off to a scorching start and representing the ACC incredibly well, look for the Panthers to fall back to earth come January and February.

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What to Make of Duke’s Monstrous 2014 Recruiting Class

Posted by Christopher Kehoe on November 22nd, 2013

Mike Krzyzewski is on top of the world. At 66 years old, most people would be retired or nearing the golden age of relaxation and 4:00 PM dinners. But not Krzyzewski; he is gaining a second wind and dominating the recruiting landscape like few senior citizens before him. On Thursday afternoon, Duke landed five-star wing prospect Justise Winslow from the Lone Star State, which by itself would be enough to build around for most programs, but Winslow instead is the third five-star recruit and fourth top-30 recruit Duke has landed in the 2014 class.

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow & Tyus Jones on their official visits to Duke (credit: News Observer)

Just last Friday Duke landed the second-best point guard and fifth best prospect in the entire class in Minnesota point guard Tyus Jones. Jones is a pass-first point guard who makes everyone around him better. And it doesn’t hurt that he is best friends with and the first half of a package deal featuring center Jahlil Okafor. Okafor, who many have dubbed the best back-to-the-basket big man prospect since the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins, is the top-ranked prospect in the 2014 class. Krzyzewski put it best when he said it was ‘three years of hard work’ paying off in the end with the signings of both players. The addition of 6’6” wing Winslow this week rounds out an already extremely potent recruiting class for the gold medal-winning coach. Winslow brings a physicality and athleticism that will have him poised to challenge for a starting position on the wing from day one. He has a college-ready body and is an extremely tenacious perimeter defender who will relish the easy looks provided by Jones’s penetration and double teams on Okafor.

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The ACC’s Soft Middle Tier: Time to Panic Yet?

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 14th, 2013

We are less than one week into the start of the 2013-14 college basketball season and the median of the ACC is nearing panic mode. Maybe not quite yet, but things certainly could have started better for the NCAA’s mightiest conference. To date, N.C. State has lost to Cincinnati by 11, Virginia lost to in-state rival VCU (displaying the power shift between traditional Virginia basketball schools), Miami barely squeaked by Georgia Southern in overtime and posted an inexcusable overtime loss to St. Francis (NY), and Boston College suffered an opening defeat to Providence and followed that up with a 13-point shellacking at the hands of a game Massachusetts squad. What does this all mean for the ‘almighty’ ACC as the nation’s premier basketball conference? Does this, for one, quiet the whispers of the ACC as the greatest basketball conference of all-time?

Boston College

BC has little to celebrate after an 0-2 start (Michael Ivins/US Presswire)

A lot of a conference’s overall reputation and greatness has to be attributed to its depth and the overall quality of teams across the board. Now VCU happens to be a top-25 team that has largely surpassed the Virginia basketball program of late under Shaka Smart, but a team that has ACC title aspirations and is laden with senior leaders needs to win games versus A-10 programs, especially if it doesn’t wish to find itself on the bubble again. N.C. State is in what most people consider a rebuilding year under Mark Gottfried, but Cincinnati is not a powerhouse and the middle of the league must prove formidable for the ACC to solidify its place in history. Last Friday night, Maryland lost to a top-25 Connecticut team boasting one of the best backcourts in the nation by only a single point, but the Terps walked away with a close loss rather than gloating about a big win on their non-conference résumé. Miami wasn’t expected to have a great year after losing Kenny Kadji, Shane Larkin, Reggie Johnson, Durand Scott and the rest of its roster from last season, but losing to a NEC foe is a humbling step backward, to say the least.

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ACC Basketball Twitter Must-Follows: Part III

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 7th, 2013

In the third and final segment of RTC ACC’s Twitter must-follow series, we take a further look at the remaining eight teams in the ACC. This list is not all encompassing but a quick look at some of the more prominent accounts to follow for news and insight on teams around the ACC. This may include coaches, players, writers, and/or bloggers. So without any further delay, Rush the Court brings you the part three finale of our ACC Twitter rundown (click here for Part I and Part II).

Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech finds himself in the 'Alumni Spotlight'

Malcolm Delaney of Virginia Tech finds himself in the ‘Alumni Spotlight’

Virginia

 Cavaliers Starting Five

 Other Official Accounts

 Alumni Spotlight

  • @mikescott Mike Scott currently plays for the Atlanta Hawks and with a little over 17,000 tweets, he is certainly active on social media.

Duke

Blue Devils Starting Five

  • @dukeblueplanet The official account for Duke basketball run by their recruiting and communications coordinator.
  • @BlueDevilNation Run by Mark Watson, the publisher of Blue Devil Nation.
  • @BlueDevilLair Adam Rowe (RTC alumnus) runs this account that represents 247sports.com and provides great insight into recruiting and Duke basketball news.
  • @laurakeeley The Duke beat reporter for The Raleigh News & Observer as well as the Charlotte Observer.
  • @dukebasketball Coverage of Duke hoops from The Chronicle, Duke’s independent student newspaper with their own articles.

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ACC Basketball Twitter Must-Follows: Part II

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 5th, 2013

In the second of a three-part segment here at RTC ACC (see part I here), we take a further look into the incredible social media phenomenon that is Twitter and its all-encompassing foray into athletic culture. This second part will delve deeper into Twitter accounts to follow based on specific ACC teams, whether newspaper columnists, bloggers, alumni or current coaches or players. For any teams not included in this second piece, look for them to be revealed in a later third and final article on the subject. The following is a breakdown of five ‘must-follow’ accounts for each respective team, followed by some official accounts consisting of players and/or coaches and special bonus category at the end of each school’s section.

twitterbird130225034543_acc_bar_logo

Maryland

Terrapins ‘Starting Five’

  • @nickfaustLIVE With over 9,000 tweets, Nick Faust gives prolific insight to the day-to-day life of a Terp student-athlete.
  • @_es1 Evan Smotrycz is a fun follow and has a good Big Ten and ACC knowledge base.
  • @TerpsInsider Follows Maryland football and basketball with the help of two Washington Post beat writers.
  • @alex_prewitt Washington Post sportswriter focusing on Maryland athletics with over 15,000 tweets.
  • @insidemdsports Publisher of InsideMDSports, a 247sports.com site, has helpful recruiting knowledge.

Other official accounts that are worth a follow

  • @CoachTurgeon Head coach Mark Turgeon.
  • @umterps Official Twitter of Maryland athletics.
  • @Dez32Wells Dez Wells, Maryland’s best player and former Xavier transfer.
  • @StuckLikeChuck1 Charles Mitchell, you’ve won us over with that username.

Random Alumni Spotlight

  • @DrewNicholas12 Was a member of the 2002 national championship team, played in Europe, and is good for some savvy insight on Maryland and the ACC from time-to-time.

Clemson

Tigers Starting Five

  • @ClemsonMBB The official account for Clemson basketball, ran by head coach Brad Brownell.
  • @KJMcDaniels The Tigers’ best player and a Clemson fan favorite.
  • @maniebeingmanie Manie Robinson is a Clemson football and basketball beat writer for the Greenville News.
  • @orangeandwhite An account exclusively dedicated to Clemson sports.
  • @brink_aim Writes about Clemson for @orangeandwhite above, a clear Clemson superfan.

Other official accounts

Random Alumni Spotlight

  • @bnice21 Bryan Narcisse played for Clemson for two years and then the South Carolina native was drafted by the world famous Harlem Globetrotters. Diehard ACC fans will remember Narcisse as the forward roaming the hardwood in the fashionable Rec Specs.

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ACC Basketball Twitter Must-Follows: Part I

Posted by Chris Kehoe on November 4th, 2013

In today’s increasingly technological world, so much of the daily breaking news and interaction happens over social media sites. Fans can interact with players, analysts and writers to voice their opinions and visa versa. ACC basketball is no different and has a large presence on Twitter. In the first of a three-segment series on some of the most insightful and entertaining ACC basketball accounts on Twitter, we take a deeper look at the conference-wide accounts that provide a wide breadth of knowledge across the ACC. The subsequent two parts will break down team-specific Twitter handles that are also worth a follow. These are some accounts worth checking out:

twitterbird130225034543_acc_bar_logo

Conference-Wide Twitter Follows

  • @ACCSports covers both ACC basketball and football; also located on accsports.com.
  • @ShaneRyanHere a staff writer at ESPN.com’s Grantland; also the editor of Tobacco Road Blues.
  • @lebrownlow Lauren Brownlow is a freelance writer for Fox Sports Carolina covering the Triangle and ACC sports.
  • @thedevilwolf Ben Swain is a co-host of the Walk-Ons podcast and is good for frequent sarcasm and a chuckle.
  • @bretstrelow ACC basketball reporter for the Fayetteville Observer is also a voter for the AP Top 25 Poll.
  • @accmbb The official Twitter account for ACC Men’s Basketball.
  • @DavidTeelatDP an ACC reporter for the Daily Press.
  • @rtcACC Independent voice of college basketball. Pretty much the best site ever.
  • @CBSSportsACC CBS’ ACC coverage, as told by Sean Bielawski and Shawn Krest.
  • @stephenschramm Schramm also writes for the Fayetteville Observer (like Strelow) and covers ACC basketball.
  • @joeovies Ovies is a Triangle radio talk show host for ESPN’s The Fan in Raleigh, with a good track record and insight on ACC sports.
  • @AGoldFan the other half of the Raleigh’s The Fan talk show, Adam Gold is another valid contributor to the ACC sports scene.
  • @CaultonTudor Tudor covers the ACC for Raleigh’s WRAL news.

Feel free to follow these members of the Rush the Court ACC family as well: @rise_and_fire@kellenlc@bradjenk@prohibitivefav.

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